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Veritable Veneration for the Aladdin Venus

April 25th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

Last week, Elisabeth Witt of Wisconsin contacted me and said she thought there were a few kit homes in Shorewood, Wisconsin. I went to Realtor.com and entered Shorewood to do a quickie search, and one of the first hits was an Aladdin Venus! Click here to see the listing.

The Aladdin Venus was a popular house, but what makes this house in Shorewood so interesting is that it’s the only Venus I’ve seen that retains its original wooden awning.

And before we get to the pictures, I wonder if the Realtor knows it’s an Aladdin kit home? If so, there’s not a peep about it in the listing!

Thanks so much to Elisabeth for sending the photos!

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

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Located in Shorewood, Wisconsin, this is the only Aladdin Venus Ive seen with that wooden awning intact!

Located in Shorewood, Wisconsin, this is the only Aladdin Venus I've seen with that wooden awning intact! And the rest of the house is in lovely condition, minus the windows on the side. Best of all, this house is for sale and if you click on the link above, you'll find an abundance of interior photos. Thanks to Elisabeth Witt for getting this photo!

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Detail of that wooden awning.

Detail of that wooden awning.

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The Aladdin Venus was a beautiful house.

The Aladdin Venus was a beautiful house, with a lot of fun details, like those paneled columns, the L-shaped front porch, and the star-pattern of windows on the home's left side (shown here). It also has oversized eaves and the roof slopes over those upstairs windows. When you look at the interior photos, that slope is dramatic on the 2nd floor. (1919 catalog)

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The Venus was offered in two floor plans.

The Venus was offered in two floor plans. Venus #1 was smaller (18 by 24).

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One house

Venus #2 was 20' by 26' and a couple other minor differences.

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House

"It continually attracts attention from people walking by..."

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The Aladdin Venus, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Aladdin Venus, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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What a pretty little Aladdin Venus!

What a pretty little Aladdin Venus! But the removal of four windows is a curiousity!

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Heres a tired Aladdin Venus in Newport News, Virginia.

Here's a tired Aladdin Venus in Newport News, Virginia.

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Another weary Venus, and this ones in Norfolk (38th Street).

Another weary Venus, and this one's in Norfolk (38th Street).

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Heres an Aladdin Venus just outside of Roanoke Rapids, NC.

Here's an Aladdin Venus just outside of Roanoke Rapids, NC.

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If those other Venuses (Venii?) are tired-looking, this ones exhausted. Its on 35th Street, in Park Place. At one time, Park Place was solid working class and many classic bungalows. Now its a blighted, high-crime area thats trying to come back. In the meantime, the many bungalows in this neighborhood can be had for a song.

If those other Venuses (Venii?) are tired-looking, this one's exhausted. It's on 35th Street, in Park Place (Norfolk, VA). At one time, Park Place was solid working class neighborhood with many classic bungalows. Now it's a blighted, high-crime area that's trying to come back. In the meantime, the many bungalows in this neighborhood can be had for a song.

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Lets end on a happy note. :)  Many thanks to Elisabeth for the wonderful photo. And someone should tell that Realtor that this is the real deal - an Aladdin (not Sears) kit home!

Let's end on a happy note. :) Many thanks to Elisabeth for the wonderful photo. And someone should tell that Realtor that this is the real deal - an Aladdin (not Sears) kit home!

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To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

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Sears Kit Homes in My Town: Norfolk, Virginia

January 24th, 2012 Sears Homes 8 comments

How many Sears Homes does Norfolk have? A whole bunch. In fact, Norfolk has more than 80 kit homes from a variety of kit-home companies, including Aladdin, Sears, Lewis Manufacturing, Harris Brothers and Gordon Van Tine.

In 2004, a local college went scouting for kit homes in Norfolk. I read their finished report and was not surprised that they missed most of these 80+ kit homes. This is a work that I have dedicated my life to, and it’s not a project one can endeavor to undertake on a spare weekend.

When I first started hunting for kit homes in Norfolk, I was expecting to find a couple dozen - at the most. I was surprised (and delighted) to find so many of them, and in diverse group of neighborhoods, such as West Ghent, Ingleside, Larchmont, Ocean View, Park Place, Colonial Place, Riverview, Lafayette Winona and more.

Born and raised in Portsmouth, I’ll always be a “Portsmouth Girl.” In 1995, our little family left Hampton Roads and moved to the St. Louis area, where we lived for 11 years.  In 2006, I moved back to the area, met and married a nice guy who worked for the city of Norfolk, and that’s when Norfolk became my new home.

I’m still learning how to navigate the labyrinthine streets, and still making new discoveries. Who knew Norfolk could be so much fun?  :)

To read about the Sears Homes I found in Newport News, click here.

The Sears Roanoke, as shown in the 1920 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Sears Roanoke, as shown in the 1920 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Of all the houses Ive found in Norfolk, this is far and away my #1 favorite. This is an older picture, but its a perfect Sears Roanoke in Norfolk (off of Colley Avenue). The owner (Robert) loves his beautiful Roanoke, and Ive never come across *anyone* who loves (and respects) the historical significance of his Sears House, more than this fellow. The house is a gem, and thanks to Robert, this 90-year-old home has been faithfully and meticulously restored.

Of all the houses I've found in Norfolk, this is far and away my #1 favorite. This is a perfect Sears Roanoke in Norfolk (off Colley Avenue). The owner (Robert) loves his beautiful Roanoke, and I've never come across *anyone* who loves (and appreciates) the historical significance of his Sears House, more than this fellow. The house is a gem, and thanks to Robert, this 90-year-old home has been faithfully and meticulously restored.

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The Sears Lebanon, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Sears Lebanon, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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Another treasure of a house, and also in good condition. Its on 28th Street, just off Colley Avenue.

Another treasure of a house, and also in good condition. It's on 28th Street, just off Colley Avenue. See the small pieces of wood that jut out under that dormer window? Those are the old supports that held up the flower boxes (seen in original catalog image).

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The Whitehall is easy to identify with that two-story bay window (1926).

The Whitehall is easy to identify with that two-story bay window (1926).

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Next door to the Sears Lebanon is this Whitehall (27th Street).

Next door to the Sears Lebanon is this Whitehall (28th Street).

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Sears Argyle (1919 catalog).

Sears Argyle (1919 catalog).

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This sweet little Sears Argyle is hidden away in the 900-block of 28th Street.

This sweet little Sears Argyle is hidden away in the 900-block of 28th Street.

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Heres another Argyle in Ocean View.

Here's another Argyle in Ocean View.

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The Alhambra was another popular Sears kit home.

The Alhambra was another popular Sears kit home.

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Heres a modified Alhambra on Westover Avenue in Ghent.

Here's a modified Alhambra on Westover Avenue in West Ghent. It's one of three exact models, all in a row. A distinctive feature of the Alhambra is the three squared-bay windows.

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The Alhambra floorplan shows those three squared bays.

The Alhambra floorplan shows those three squared bays.

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One of my favorites is the Harris Brothers La Grange (1923 catalog).

One of my favorites is the Harris Brothers "La Grange" (1923 catalog).

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There are two of these in Ocean View. Heres one on Capitol Avenue.

There are two of these in Ocean View. Here's one on Capitol Avenue. Notice the curved front porch, and casement windows flanking the fireplace.

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Not surprisingly, there are many Aladdin kit homes in Norfolk. Aladdin was a bigger company than Sears, and remained in business un 1981. Aladdin had a huge mill at Wilmington, NC.

Not surprisingly, there are many Aladdin kit homes in Norfolk. Aladdin was a bigger company than Sears, and remained in business un 1981. Aladdin had a huge mill at Wilmington, NC.

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There are two of these Aladdin Edisons right next door to ODU in the 800-block of 46th Street.

There are two of these Aladdin Edisons right next door to ODU in the 800-block of 46th Street.

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Aladdin Virginia from the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

Aladdin Virginia from the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

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Aladdin Virginia on Virginia Avenue in the state of Virginia!

This Aladdin "Virginia" is on Virginia Avenue in the state of Virginia (in Colonial Place). It's in wonderful condition and it's a spot-on match to the original catalog image.

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The Aladdin Pasadena and there are three of them in Norfolk.

There are three Aladdin Pasadenas in Norfolk.

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This Aladdin Pasadena is in the 1600-block of LaSalle Avenue in Lafayette-Winona.

This Aladdin Pasadena is in the 1600-block of LaSalle Avenue in Lafayette-Winona.

Its turned sideways on the lot, which made the initial identification a little challenging, but theres no doubt that this is a Pasadena. Look at the detail around the front porch.

It's turned sideways on the lot, which made the initial identification a little challenging, but there's no doubt that this is a Pasadena. Look at the architectural details around the front porch. This house is on 49th Street in Norfolk.

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Close-up of the porch on this sideways Pasadena.

Close-up of the porch on this sideways Pasadena.

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The Aladdin Winthrop is easy to identify with those four bricks columns on the porch, only two of which have wooden columns extending to the porch roof.

The Aladdin Winthrop is easy to identify with those four bricks columns on the porch, only two of which have wooden columns extending to the porch roof. Another interesting feature is the window in the side of the dining room bay.

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This Aladdin Winthrop is even the same colors as its original catalog image. Its in the 3000-block of Tidewater Drive.

This Aladdin Winthrop is even the same colors as its original catalog image. It's in Lafayette Winona, and it's in beautifully original condition!

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The Sheffield as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The "Sheffield" as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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This one is in Lafayette-Winona.

This one is in Lafayette-Winona, and it's a perfect match!

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The Aladdin Pomona, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Aladdin Pomona, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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The Aladdin Pomona in Lafayette-Winona.

The Aladdin Pomona in Lafayette-Winona. The windows have been changed but it's undoubtedly a Pomona. And it's in a neighborhood with several Aladdins!

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The Plaza was a grand house, and spacious too.

The Plaza was a grand house, and spacious too.

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And here is my #1 favorite kit house in all of Hampton Roads: The Aladdin Plaza, in beautifully original condition.

And here is my #1 favorite kit house in all of Hampton Roads: The Aladdin Plaza, in beautifully original condition.

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Gordon Van Tine was another mail-order kit home company that was based in Davenport, Iowa.

Gordon Van Tine was another mail-order kit home company that was based in Davenport, Iowa. This design ("The Roberts") was one of their most popular houses.

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This Roberts is in Ocean View and is beautiful condition!

This "Roberts" is in Ocean View and is beautiful condition!

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The Glenn Falls was one of Sears biggest and best kit homes (1928 catalog).

The Glenn Falls was one of Sears biggest and best kit homes (1928 catalog).

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And this one is in West Ghent!

And this one is in West Ghent!

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The Sears Avondale was a popular house.

The Sears Avondale was a popular house (1919 catalog), and spacious, too.

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And this one is on Victorian Avenue. Its well-hidden by the trees, but theres no doubt that its a Sears Avondale.

And this one is on Victoria Avenue. It's well-hidden by the trees, but there's no doubt that it's a Sears Avondale. This is a mirror image of the catalog page above. Notice the large bay window? It's on the "flip side" of the catalog picture.

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The Sears Vallonia was one of Sears best-selling homes (1925 catalog).

The Sears Vallonia was one of Sears best-selling homes (1925 catalog).

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Located in Ocean View (on Mason Avenue), its been converted into a duplex, but its definitely a Vallonia.

Located in Ocean View (on Mason Avenue), it's been converted into a duplex, but it's definitely a Sears Vallonia, with an enlarged dormer.

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Sears Westly, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

Sears Westly, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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And a Sears Westly on Tennesee Road. This was a real surprise, because most of these houses are post-1940s.

And a Sears Westly on Tennessee Road. This was a real surprise, because most of the houses on this street are post-1940s.

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And heres a Sears Westly (now a duplex, sadly) in Ocean View.

And another Sears Westly (now a duplex, sadly) in Ocean View.

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The Sears Barrington was a popular house (1929 catalog).

The Sears Barrington was a popular house (1929 catalog).

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This Barrington is in Ocean View, and its a good match to the catalog picture.

This Barrington is in Ocean View, and it's a good match to the catalog picture.

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The Sears Americus is also easy to identify, because that bumped-out wall on the second floor does not exist on the first floor.

The Sears Americus is also easy to identify, because that bumped-out wall on the second floor does not exist on the first floor. The porch roof also catches my eye, because it juts out beyond the home's main wall, and is shaped like a sideways "V."

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This Americus is in Park Place is in the 600-block of 27th Street. Park Place has several kit homes.

This Americus is in Park Place is in the 600-block of 27th Street. Park Place has several kit homes. There's a special place in hell for the guy who did this siding job. Look what he did to the eave brackets. Plus, like so many other Sears Homes in Norfolk, it's been turned into a duplex.

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There is not one, but two Aladdin Venuses (or woult that be Venii?) in Park Place.

There are two Aladdin "Venuses" (or would that be "Venii"?) in Park Place.

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This Aladdin Venus still has its original casement windows. Its on 38th.

This Aladdin Venus still has its original casement windows. It's on 38th Street.

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And this Aladdin Venus is on 36th Street.

The Venus was offered in two floor plans. There was a Mama Bear-sized Venus and a Papa Bear-sized Venus. This one (on 36th street) is the larger model. The one on 38th Street (shown above) was the smaller model.

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Norfolk is also home to many plan book houses. Plan books were akin to kit homes, but with plan book homes, you ordered the blueprints and a list of building materials that would be needed. The actual building materials were then obtained locally.  This house shown here is a Homebuilders Carrville.

Norfolk is also home to many "plan book" houses. Plan books were akin to "kit homes," but with plan book homes, you ordered the blueprints and a list of building materials that would be needed. The actual building materials were then obtained locally. This house shown here is a "Homebuilder's Carrville."

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And heres a pristine example in Ocean View.

And here's a pristine example in Ocean View. The Ocean View home has straight gables, unlike the catalog image, which has the clipped gables. That minor alteration would have been easy to do.

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Putting these photos together took about 50 hours of work (spread out over a period of months). Looking for kit homes is always fun, but after a few hours, both Teddy and I come back home dog tired.

Putting this blog together took about 50 hours of work (spread out over a period of months). Finding these early 20th Century kit homes is always fun, but also a bit tiring. After a few hours of "house hunting," Teddy and I usually return home "dog tired."

As mentioned, there are more than 80 kit homes in Norfolk. The above are just a few of them.

Please share this link with friends!

To learn more about the kit homes in Ocean View, click here.

To see pictures of kit homes in Colonial Place, click here.

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A Not-So-Nobby Neighborhood in Newport News With Numerous Kit Homes!

January 21st, 2012 Sears Homes 14 comments

It’s called, “East End,” and it’s a badly blighted, crime-ridden part of the otherwise lovely, history laden city of Newport News (Virginia). Despite the fact that I’m a native of Tidewater, I never knew this neighborhood existed, until I stumbled upon it while looking for a particular house in Hampton!

After my fortuitous stumble into East End, I discovered a Sears kit home I had never seen before. After 12 years of playing with kit homes, that doesn’t happen too often these days. And yet here it was, in Newport News, which is next door to Norfolk (where I live). To learn more about these early 20th Century kit homes, click here.

The next day I returned to East End to get a better photo of this Sears House, and I found several more kit homes. I returned a couple days later and spent 90 minutes driving to and fro in this neighborhood. It’s my hope and prayer that this research might encourage the important people in Newport News to think about what can be done to preserve and protect this truly remarkable collection of kit homes.

As I told my husband, this is the type of discovery I’d expect to make in a Chicago suburb (where there’s an abundance of kit homes). Here in Virginia, I’ve never seen anything quite like this. And due to the straitened economic circumstances of this neighborhood, some of these houses are in largely original condition. (In addition to the Sears kit homes, I also found several houses from Aladdin, which also sold entire kit houses through mail order. In fact, I found more Aladdin kit homes than Sears!)

The research and writing of this blog consumed many, many hours of my life. Please share this link with others, who may have any interest in our cultural and architectural history.

Enjoy the many photos and please leave a comment below.

To read about the kit homes I found in Hampton, click here.

The first house that caught my eye was this Sears Model #119. Its a grand old house, and the house in Newport News is the first one Ive seen in person.

The first house that caught my eye was this Sears Model #119. It's a grand old house, and the house in Newport News is the first one I've ever seen "in the flesh."

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Hard to believe, but someone built this house from a kit. These houses arrived via train, and came with 12,000 pieces and a 75-page instruction book. I can only imagine how hard it was for this homes original builder to leave this wonderful home. More than 50% of the time, these homes were built by average men and women who were just trying to capture a piece of the American Dream.

Hard to believe, but someone built this house from a kit. These houses arrived via train, and came with 12,000 pieces and a 75-page instruction book. I can only imagine how hard it was for this home's original builder to leave this home that he'd built - with his own hands - for his family. These homes were built to last for GENERATIONS, and they were made with superior quality building materials. This house is on Marshall Avenue.

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Side-by-side comparison of the two houses.

Side-by-side comparison of the two images.

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The Hathaway was a cute little house, and affordable, and probably not too tough to build.

The Hathaway was a cute little house, and affordable, and probably not too tough to build.

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Here it is, in PRISTINE condition. Notice that even the original lattice work is still in place, and is a spot-on match to the catalog image. Just incredible! Probably one of my favorite finds!

Here it is, in PRISTINE condition, and sitting unobtrusively on Hampton Avenue (in Newport News). Notice that even the original lattice work is still in place, and is a spot-on match to the catalog image. Just incredible! Probably one of my favorite finds!

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A comparison of the two images shows

A comparison of the two images. What a treasure!

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Just as I was getting ready to head home, I turned down 26th Street and lo and behold, what did I see, but a PERFECT Aladdin Brentwood smiling back at me!

Just as I was getting ready to head home, I turned down 26th Street and lo and behold, what did I see, but a PERFECT Aladdin Brentwood smiling back at me! This image (shown here) is from the 1914 Aladdin catalog. This is a classic Arts & Crafts design, and a beautiful house.

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A perfect Aladdin Brentwood. Made me gasp out loud, followed by paroxsyms of great joy.

A perfect Aladdin Brentwood. When I happened upon this house, I made a high-pitched happy noise, followed by paroxysms of great joy. But this poor old Aladdin Brentwood is in rough shape, and needs quite a bit of work. The balcony's railing (upper left of photo) is literally falling off the house. This house is across the street from the Pearl Bailey Public Library.

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Side by side comparison to the two houses.

Side by side comparison to the two houses. Pretty sweet house!

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The Aladdin Venus, as seen in the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

The Aladdin Venus, as seen in the 1919 Aladdin catalog. The L-shaped front porch is a distinctive feature on the Aladdin Venus.

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And here it is.

What is it about this color and Aladdin Homes in East End?

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Another very nice match.

Another very nice match. As a side note, photographing this house was very difficult, as it was on the right side of the road on a one-way street (26th Street), and I wasn't prepared to park the car, and hoof it to the house just to get a good shot.

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The Sears Westly, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Sears Westly, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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And heres a Sears Westly.

And here's a Sears Westly in good condition on 23rd Street.

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Again, a very sweet match to the original catalog picture!

Again, a very sweet match to the original catalog picture!

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The Aladdin Marsden was probably one of their top five most popular houses.

The Aladdin Marsden was probably one of their top five most popular houses.

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Look at the deatil of the brickword around the chimney!

Look at the detail of the brickwork on the chimney!

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And its for Better class workers!

This Sears Home was for "Better class" workers!

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Ouch.

Ouch. At least the satellite dish is dressed up for the holidays.

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Compare

Poor little "Carlin."

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Lewis Manufacturing was yet another early 20th Century kit home company.

Lewis Manufacturing was yet another early 20th Century kit home company.

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I suspect this *may* be a Lewis Pelham, but Im not convinced.

I suspect this *may* be a Lewis Pelham, but I'm not convinced. There are a lot of things that are "just right" and match the Pelham very nicely. Notice the squared bay with a shed roof, and the four round columns on the front porch. It's a good match to the Pelham, but not perfect. Hard to see here, but in "person" you can tell that four windows in that gabled dormer were removed and sided over. And check out the action on the back roof. This classic bungalow is becoming an A-Frame. Icky.

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If you look closely at these windows, you can seem that a few have been blanked out and covered up.

If you look closely at this dormer, you can see that a few windows have been removed and covered up.

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From the 1910 catalog, this is the Sears Model #123.

From the 1910 catalog, this is the Sears Model #123.

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This house in East End is SO close, but just not quite right.

This house in East End is SO close, but just not quite right. This house has so many odd architectural details (the pedimented porch, the two different-size dormers on the side, the bay under the larger dormer), but it's not 100% perfect.

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At the end of the day, Teddy and I were tired, and ready to come home.

At the end of the day, Teddy The Amazing House Hunting Dog was tired, and ready to move on to the next adventure - LUNCH! We'd both had an exciting day with lots of fun discoveries, but we were glad to come home and chow down on some tasty kibble.

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I’m confident that there are many more kit homes in this small part of Newport News, and I hope to return one day (with a driver), and do a little more searching. It’s hard to focus on houses when there are so many people milling about in the street.  :(  Plus, while I was in this area, I saw TWO drivers blow past stop signs, without even pausing to glance at traffic. Scary. And then sometime last night, some poor soul was shot repeatedly in this very area.

Please leave a comment below, and please share this link with friends, via Facebook, twitter or even plain old email!

To learn more about the kit homes of Hampton Roads, click here.

To read about kit homes in nearby Hampton, click here.

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